Gregory T. Janetka is a writer from Chicago who currently lives in the outskirts of San Diego where he is inspired by pretty things. His work has previously been published in Foliate Oak, Flyover County Review, Gambling the Aisle, Deltona Howl and The Flash Fiction Press. He is terribly good at jigsaw puzzles and drinks a great deal of tea. More of his writings can be found at gregorytjanetka.com.
INTERVIEW WITH GREGORY T. JANETKA
Welcome to Scarlet Leaf Review!
Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago, went to college in D.C. then bounced around between Chicago and Orlando before moving to Alabama and finally San Diego, where I currently reside. Chicago, however, will always be home and consistently finds its way into my work. I began creating stories in my head in order to help me fall asleep when I was very little. Soon after I started writing them down and haven’t stopped since.
Q: Do you think that your school years have had an impact in your writing career? If so, what were you like at school?
Absolutely. I was lucky to have many great teachers across many disciplines. What stood out to me across all subjects was the storytelling aspect. If the teacher was a good storyteller I’d pay more attention and get more out of the class.
Q: Were you good at English or like Einstein you excel now in a field that was a nightmare for you as a student?
I loved English in terms of reading and analyzing texts but when it came to all the grammar rules I immediately lost interest. Writing has rules and formulas, of course, but breaking it down to that level seemed like an attempt to kill the magic that words and language inherently possess so I just went with what sounded and felt right and was correct about 95 percent of the time.
Q: What are your future ambitions for your writing career?
Of course like any writer I’d like to be able to survive by writing fiction alone but realizing how unlikely that is, all I can hope for is the time to always keep writing no matter what else happens in life.
Q: So, would you mind telling us what you have written so far?
As far as published work I have had a number of short stories and poems in literary magazines, but have also finished a novel and a novella and am currently seeking representation for both.
Q: What are you working on at the minute? What’s it about?
I have major issues with focus and so am always working on multiple projects. The two main ones at the moment include a short story dealing with the tenuous nature of friendships and the beginnings of a second novel set in early 1900s Chicago.
Q: What genre are your books and what draws you to this genre?
I suppose what I write usually falls under the general heading of literary fiction. My novel and novella, however, are historical fiction as I find it easier to fictionalize and distance myself from the real life events that inspired them. Also because I know what it’s like to live in my own time period and want to better understand and explore how others have lived in the past.
Q: When did you decide to become a writer and why? What was the principal reason for taking up a pen (metaphorical speaking) and write that first sentence?
I’ve always loved writing stories but didn’t seek to do anything with them until a few years ago. Out of a feeling of duty, and because I figured no one would ever want to read my stories, I studied political science in college. I spent time in class, however, filling the margins of my notebooks with story notes and ideas. The desire was always there, lurking. In December 2013, I quit my job in order to travel the country for 80 days and finish my novel and haven’t looked back since.
Q: Do you write full-time or part-time? Do you have a special time to write or do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?
I’d love to write full-time but without being independently wealthy that’s not an option. I write what I can when I can, usually bits at a time. When you truly love something you’ll always find a way to do it.
Q: Where do your ideas come from? Or is it just the spur of the moment, a special feeling you experience or a specific conjuncture that offers you inspiration?
We’re always surrounded by endless ideas but who knows what makes us see some and not others. And what makes us run with one over all the others that we do see. I love that there is mystery to writing.
Q: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I’m not sure I have.
Q: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
An idea comes and I write until everything in my head is down on paper or until my arm literally goes numb and I can’t write any longer. I let that, whatever it may be, sit until I have some distance from it then I go back and see how to possibly structure it and what basic components, if any, it is missing.
Q: In your opinion, what is the hardest thing about writing?
Finding the time and quiet in which to do it.
Q: Now, what about the easiest thing about writing?
The fact that there is always more to be explored, always more words and language to play with.
Q: Do you ever get writer’s Block and if so do you have any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
I’m not sure I understand the idea of writer’s block. If you’re a writer, you write. What you produce may be junk but everyone writes junk. If one story gets held up or isn’t working you move onto another. Writer’s write.
Q: Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors? For your own reading, do you prefer eBooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
To me reading is as nearly as much a tactile as it is a mental experience and so I prefer traditional books, used ones if possible. The feel of the pages, the smell of them, of taking a pencil to them to underline great sentences, to holding in my hand a well worn book that has been read who knows how many times by how many people, of taking that journey that they’ve taken and seeing what they’ve left behind, be it notes or dog-eared pages or coffee stains. Reading is anything but a solitary experience.
Q: What book are you reading at present?
The Stories of John Cheever and Bleak House
Q: How do you relax?
I’m not sure I’ve ever been able to.
Q: What is your favorite book and why?
The Great Gatsby. My high school English teacher Mrs. Smith assigned it for class and to her I will forever be grateful. Those sentences, each a treasure. That’s how I wanted to write. Not to just come up with stories but to be a storyteller. That work led me to the rest of Fitzgerald’s work and to a love of the Lost Generation of the 1920s.
Q: Where can you see yourself in 5 years-time?
Ideally embodying the cliche of living in a small Parisian apartment near the Seine with my love and my cat, drinking copious amounts of tea. In reality all I know is I’ll be scratching out my little stories somewhere.
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t change anything, just pay close attention as it will all be useful one day.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Have great adventures. And always carry a pen and paper with you. Once an idea is gone it’s gone.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
I just want to say thanks to Roxanna and Scarlet Leaf Review for this opportunity!
Q: How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.
To bring joy to readers everywhere.